38 Penn State Fraternity Members Have Been Kicked Out For Allegedly Participating In An Awful Facebook Group
Kappa Delta Rho's national headquarters expelled 38 fraternity members from Penn State University's chapter on Monday for allegedly keeping a private Facebook page with nude photos of drunk and unconscious female students, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In addition to the 38 expulsions, some members will be moved to alumni status, and the fraternity will be suspended for three years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Kappa Delta Rho executive director Joseph Rosenberg said in a statement that members who assumed responsibility for their actions regarding the photos wouldn't be expelled. The expulsions won't have any effect on the students' status at Penn State. A lawyer representing the fraternity declined Bustle's request for comment.
The Facebook page, its photos, and allegations of hazing were all revealed to police by former Kappa Delta Rho pledge and Penn State student James Vivenzio, who said he waited eight months for the university to take action before going to police in January, according to the WSJ. The incident became public in March, and Penn State announced that it would review its Greek system. Vivenzio is now suing Penn State and Kappa Delta Rho for alleged negligence in their actions surrounding the hazing he claims he underwent. Lisa Powers, a Penn State spokeswoman, emailed Bustle the following statement:
The University strongly disputes the allegations in this complaint. Student affairs staff members at Penn State were approached by Mr. Vivenzio and his family in April 2014. Our staff offered him extraordinary assistance on numerous occasions, and went to great lengths to do so over the course of nearly nine months — even sending the director of the Office of Student Conduct to their home to interview them. Neither he nor his family were willing to file a complaint, provide documentation, speak with State College Police or participate in pursuing the formal disciplinary process available to them, despite repeated encouragement from University staff. Mr. Vivenzio also did not inform Penn State staff members of a private Facebook group. University officials became aware of its existence when informed by State College Police in February 2015.
This incident was one of the many ongoing investigations into fraternities around the country. In its investigation of the Kappa Delta Rho chapter, Penn State said it found that some fraternity members engaged in sexual harassment and hazing that included a "persistent climate of humiliation" for women, according to the WSJ.
Philadelphia magazine published an interview with one of the men, who allegedly says he participated in the Facebook group, in March where he said the media was wrong in condemning the fraternity's actions. He said that, retrospectively, he regrets being in the group, but that it was "satire":
Obviously, retrospectively with this having happened, sure, but the thing is, that it was a satirical group. It's like, there's literally sites like that that millions of people access, whether it's totalfratmove.com or any of the other thousands of sites that post, you know, pictures of girls and post funny text conversations and Snapchat stories and things like that. It was a satirical group. It wasn't malicious whatsoever. It wasn't intended to hurt anyone. It wasn't intended to demean anyone. It was an entirely satirical group and it was funny to some extent. Some of the stuff, yeah, it's raunchy stuff, as you would expect from a bunch of college-aged guys. But, I mean, you could go on any one of hundreds and thousands of different sites to access the same kind of stuff and obviously a lot worse and a lot more explicit.
State College police are conducting a criminal investigation of the Facebook page, which they said had 144 active members that included students and graduates. In addition to the photos of women, police said there were pictures of marijuana and edibles, concentrates, ADD medication, and some cocaine. Police told Philadelphia magazine that fraternity members could face charges of violating privacy and harassment.
In the lawsuit, Vivenzio claims he was burned with cigarettes, force-fed buckets of liquor mixed with urine, vomit and hot sauce, and made to guzzle alcohol as part of fraternity hazing rituals, according to the WSJ. Vivenzio's attorney, Aaron Freiwald, alleged that there was a culture of physical and psychological abuse of fraternity pledges and others at Penn State's Kappa Delta Rho chapter, according to the Post-Gazette:
There was an image of a young woman who lost control of her bowels from liquor, passed out on a sofa. ... What really allowed these horrible things to take place was the attitude and the practice and the culture of this fraternity, of the national fraternity and the university.
Writing for Slate, Amanda Marcotte pointed out that there doesn't seem to be anything satirical about the photos or the hazing allegations:
Something can be "satirical." It could be "not intended to demean." But can it be both? It can if you're a master of the satirical form (was Stephen Colbert in a frat?). It's harder to pull off that balancing act when you're busy choosing your favorite (Snapchats) of passed-out classmates to upload to Facebook. Also, what is being satirized? Women's bodies? College students' proclivity for passing out at parties? The tendency of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity brothers to treat women as objects to be abused and ridiculed? No one knows.
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